The “Mokele-mbembe” of the Congo

(mow-kay’-lee em-bem-bee)

Low Res Mokele Mbembe by Mackal clean“In the swampy jungles of western Africa, reports persist of an elephant-sized creature with smooth, brownish-gray skin, a long, flexible neck, a very long tail as powerful as a crocodile’s, and three-clawed feet the size of frying pans. Over the past three centuries, native Pygmies and Western explorers have told how the animals feed on the nutlike fruit of a riverbank plant and keep to the deep pools and subsurface caves of waters in this largely unexplored region. After a recent expedition there, two American researchers conclude that these stories refer to a real animal, not a myth. Fantastic as it seems, Roy Mackal [University of Chicago] and James Powell believe that this creature, called ‘Mokele Mbembe’ by the natives, may actually be a dinosaur, perhaps one resembling brontosaurus, which is thought to have died out 70 million years ago.”PossibleMokele-mbembe carving (Anonymous, “Living Dinosaurs,” Science-80, vol. 1, November 1980, pp. 6-7.)

Roy Mackal’s research regarding the Mokele-mbembe led him deep into the central swamps of the Congo. He returned with a numerous credible reports and a historic footprint photo (left). Dr. Mackal wrote a book entitled Living Dinosaur? about his multiple trips and on page 225 he displays a picture of what he believes the creature looked like (above left). To the right is a photo (click to enlarge) of a west African carving that is, currently housed at Glencomeragh House in Ireland. The carving was thought to be obtained in the early part of the twentieth century, before the Mokele-mbembe research was popularized. The carving appears to show a sauropod dinosaur, much lie the Mokele-mbembe known in Congo and Cameroon. The large scales and fan-like skin under the tail that are depicted are features not reported by eye witnesses from the region. Another oddity with the carving is the small neck of the apparent juvenile. The piece is about six inches tall, but is quite heavy. It seems to have been carved from a single piece of wood. Perhaps the original wooden block was too small for the artist to add a long neck on the baby.

 The forbidding mokele4Likouala swamp region, located in the northern part of the Congo, covers an area of about 49,000 square miles, roughly the size of the state of NY. It was not until missionaries showed natives a sauropod dinosaur that they identified this mysterious animal living along the rivers and deep swamp pools. A vegetarian, the creature will fight with hippos over a territory rich in molombo plants. The Sunday Times of London reported in May of 1999 that members of the Kabonga tribe actually killed a Mokele-mbembe! In the fall of 1981 Herman Regusters led a team into Lake Tele and returned with droppings, footprint casts and sound recording unlike any animal known to the Congo Basin area. (Listen for yourself) Reports of Mokele-mbembe go all the way back to the eighteenth century and in 1919, the Smithsonian sent a team to investigate. Since 1980, over 25 such expeditions have searched for the mysterious monster!